Universities need to define collaborative spend

1 March 2013

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1 March 2013 | Adam Leach

Purchasers at universities need to work from a “robust” definition of collaborative spend to show government and other stakeholders progress is being made.

In the keynote speech at yesterday’s London Universities Purchasing Consortium conference in London, professor Nick Petford, vice chancellor of the University of Northampton and chairman of Procurement UK – the body responsible for driving collaboration - told delegates it is vital they all worked from the same definition of collaborative spend to provide robust evidence of progress.

Following publication of the Diamond report, which looked at efficiency in the education sector, universities and higher education institutions have been set the target of routing 30 per cent of non-pay spend through collaborative procurement. So far two universities have achieved the target.

Petford, who as chairman of Procurement UK is leading the push to meet this target, revealed the organisation is currently working on a clear definition of collaborative spend to aid progress and strengthen the evidence once it is achieved.

“We need to redefine procurement metrics and gather more auditable data that evidence improvements and impact,” he said. “Procurement UK is seeking to endorse a methodology for calculating the proportion of non-pay spend by higher education institutions through collaborative procurement arrangements.”

During his presentation Petford repeatedly touched on the political climate and its impact on the higher education sector, with tuition fees increasing and cuts to public funding. He told the audience if the sector didn’t find ways to make savings while preserving services itself, then there was a risk it would have savings targets thrust upon it by government. He also said showing how the sector can contribute to economic growth would be important in the political battle.

He said: “A key political win for us as a sector would be to show how universities are contributing to regional growth. Not just through research and innovation that takes place at the research elite universities, excellent as that is, but also through targeted spend.”

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